Hiccups are normal and most of us experience these involuntary contractions from the diaphragm muscle quite often.

Hiccups are usually harmless but if they are persistent, it’s time to see a doctor. These spasms with gulping sound can occur due to various factors like irritation of nerves, eating fast, smoking, swallowing air and excessive intake of food and water.

While the above mentioned are common factors, continuous hiccups are also indicative of stroke, brain tumours, damaged phrenic nerve (a nerve originating in the neck (C3-C5), between lung and heart reaching diaphragm), toxic chemicals, severe anxiety, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), etc.

Woman drinking water for hiccups


Severe stress, anxiety can cause persistent hiccups, as we tend to hyperventilate while undergoing negative emotions. Uncontrollable hiccups are indicative of high levels of stress and these spasms should be brought under control immediately. Take sips of water, practice deep breathing exercises to stop hiccups instantly.

Central Nervous Disorders:

Damage caused to the central nervous system due to trauma, presence of tumour or infection in the brain can interfere with the control over hiccup reflex. Patients suffering from encephalitis, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, stroke, brain injury caused due to accident, are prone to uncontrollable hiccups and these conditions need immediate medical attention.

Nerve Damage:

Irritation of the vagus or phrenic nerve that originates in the neck (C3-C5) between lung and heart reaching the diaphragm muscle can cause these spasms. If you are not able to control your hiccups, get tested if there is a strand of hair or something else irritating inner ear drum, cyst in the goiter region, sore throat or laryngitis.


Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD affects the lower esophageal sphincter causing severe heartburn or acid reflux. Acid reflux pushes the contents of the stomach upwards into the esophagus, irritating diaphragm. It also can cause irregular breathing causing ‘hic’ sound. Regulate your breathing with deep breathing exercises for faster relief.

Metabolic Disorders:

Certain metabolic disorders and drugs like diabetes, electrolyte imbalance, kidney disease can cause persistent hiccups. Liver related issues like swelling, infection can irritate diaphragm. Certain medications especially after surgery, alcohol, steroids, tranquilizers can cause the same.